Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Companion to The Wednesday Wars

Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. New York: Clarion Books, 2011.

I learned today that Gary Schmidt, author of the magnificent young adult novel The Wednesday Wars (for which, q.v.) recently published a companion novel to it.

The Wednesday Wars has deep and abiding references to Shakespeare throughout. Okay for Now seems to deal more with Audubon's portraits of birds—though I'm hoping for at least a little Shakespeare.

In any case, Schmidt is a master of this genre, and I'm certain this book will be astonishing.


Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let's Do It—Let's Fall in Love . . . With Shakespeare!

"Let's do it (Let's Fall in Love . . . with Shakespeare)." Music by Cole Porter. Lyrics by Keith Jones. 23 April 2011.
Cole Porter's connections to Shakespeare are many and various, but, if he has one fault, it is that he didn't write any Shakespearean lyrics to his great musical and lyrical tour de force "Let's do it (Let's Fall in Love)." For Shakespeare's birthday this year, I've rectified the omission.

Here's a version of Cole Porter's "Let's do it (Let's Fall in Love)" with lyrics that focus on Shakespeare. Enjoy!


Note: A lower-quality version appears at the end of this post in case the embedded video above fails or falters.

And, in case I didn't enunciate clearly enough, here are the complete lyrics:
Let’s do it (Let’s Fall in Love . . . with Shakespeare)

When the little walk-on part
Feels an aching in her heart
In the wings (wings, wings) . . .
When the Diva in her fur
Loses track and starts to slur
Every thing (thing, thing) . . .
When the author starts to cry, blinks and sniffles, and his eye
Fixes tight to the lights up above,
It is Shakespeare, that is all, simply telling us to fall in love.

Petruchio, as you know, did it.
Juliet and Romeo did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
King John (a long time ago) did it.
Even shy Bassanio did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Othello with Desdemon did it, though her father objects.
Miranda and Ferdinand did it—after several shipwrecks.
Lady Macbeth in her sleep did it;
Rosalind—many fathom deep—did it.
Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love!

Hamlet the Dane, mad or sane, did it.
Lear out standing in the rain did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Ophelia with bouquets did it.
The Merry Wives in many ways did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Henry the Fifth, after a fight, did it, uniting England and France.
Marvolio might do it—in ridiculous pants.
Helena and Demetrius do it.
Sir Toby Belch could just do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!

E’en Shakespeare would, as a kid, do it.
The Earl of Oxford never did do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Groundlings who made lots of noise did it.
Women who were played by boys did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
The Rose, the Swan, and the Globe did it, when the plays were on stage.
Players on tour did it—when they closed for the plague.
The Virgin Queen refused to do it.
Kyd, Marlowe, and Greene would do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!

Sir Laurence Olivier did it.
Dame Judi Dench, they say, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Sir John Gielgud, in his prime, did it.
Ian McKellen, in our time, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Emma Thomson we saw do it—with Kenneth Branagh, of course.
Kenneth Branagh did it—then he filed for divorce.
And Orson Welles, once or twice, did it.
Burton, on Liz Taylor’s advice, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!

To be or not to be might do it.
Put out the light won’t quite do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
My mistress eyes really could do it.
Though I know she lies, that should do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
If I compared thee to a summer’s day, would you know what I meant?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.
If music be the food of love, do it.
All ye chaste stars above, do it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!

Even the great Scot Macbeth did it.
Hermione, feigning death, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Antony and Cleopat did it.
Polonius, that dirty rat, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
In two parts, Falstaff, I’ve heard, did it (with a bottle of sack).
Richard the Third did it—with a hump on his back.
Coriolanus, I know, did it.
Hero and Claudio did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!

Titania in a dream did it.
Henry the Eighth’s every queen did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Down in Eastcheap, the young Hal did it.
Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal, did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
The Ghost of Great Caesar must do it—though the Ides he’ll beware.
Antigonus did it—while pursued by a bear.
Benedick and Beatrice did it.
The Merchant of Venice did it.
Let’s do it—let’s fall in love!
Note: I am indebted to Cole Porter, of course, for the music and the original lyrics on which I based my own; I'm also indebted to Noël Coward, who often sang alternate lyrics to Porter's tune. One line of Coward's particularly struck me, and I owe him credit. In one of his performances, Coward sang, "The Brontës felt that they must do it. / Ernest Hemingway could just do it," and I felt the need to appropriate part of the couplet for Sir Toby Belch.

Additional Note: There is a typo in the video file about five minutes in. I attempted to quote Sonnet 138 from memory on a plane traveling from Phoenix to Minneapolis, and I left out a word. Instead of "When my love swears she is made of truth," the quote should read "When my love swears that she is made of truth." I apologize for the error, and I may be able to fix it at some point in the future when unlimited time comes into my possession. In the meantime, know that I am imperfect and be comforted thereby. Or watch the lower-resolution version—the typo has been fixed there.

Links: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's Collection of Blogs in Honor of Shakespeare's Birthday.

Lower-Resolution File:

video

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Charlton Heston's "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Julius Caesar. Dir. Stuart Burge. Perf. Charlton Heston, Diana Rigg, Jason Robards, and John Gielgud. 1970. DVD. Republic Paramount, 2006.

While Jason Robards' performance as Brutus leaves much to be desired, Charlton Heston's Mark Anthony is phenomenal. When it comes to the speech over Caesar's body, I've never seen anything to match this one. Heston's Mark Anthony knows the power he has over the crowd of Romans at his feet, and he also knows what chaos is about be unleashed with his words. He regrets it, but he thinks it's inevitable.

video

The tearing of the toga is quite theatrical, as is the sudden display of Caesar's body, but the self-reflexivity of the moment allows us to be caught up in the horror Mark Antony reveals while seeing it from the distance of time and audience.

Here was an Antony. When comes such another?

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good Acting v. Bad Acting in Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar. Dir. Stuart Burge. Perf. Charlton Heston, Diana Rigg, Jason Robards, and John Gielgud. 1970. DVD. Republic Paramount, 2006.

A huge backlog of material to cover lurks in the archives of Bardfilm, and if I don't set my mind in "micro" mode (no jokes, please), they'll never get posted.

Here, for example, is a clip I've had around for a year or so. It's from the 1970 film version of Julius Caesar in which Charlton Heston played Mark Antony. I gathered it because I've seldom seen such masterful acting paired with such pitiful acting. The scene is Act II, scene 1, in which Portia pleads with Brutus to share the burdens he carries with her—so that his load may be lightened. Diana Rigg plays her role brilliantly, with sensitivity and understanding, conveying a wide range of emotions. Jason Robards, on the other hand, seems to be phoning it in on a bad connection to a wrong number.

video

I don't wish to be cruel, but the gap between the two levels of acting here really is remarkably wide. What can account for such disparity?

Update (1 August 2012): I've been doing some work on film versions of Julius Caesar recently, and I dipped into Kenneth Rothwell's truly remarkable History of Shakespeare on Screen (for which, q.v.), where I learned at least two interesting things about this film.

1. Orson Welles had been asked to play Brutus in this film: "He was . . . called to play Brutus in the Burge / Snell Julius Caesar (1970), but for obscure reasons had to be replaced at the eleventh hour by Jason Robards, Jr." (89). The world lost something wondrous with that change—so quick bright things come to confusion.

2. Robards' performance could be read as deliberate instead of merely uninspired:
Apparently Jason Robards' low-key performance stemmed from his interpretation of Brutus as an intellectual suppressing his emotions after being traumatized by his entanglement in a political assassination. . . Robards speaks the lines [of Brutus' soliloquy] as if he "lacked affect" (in the psychological sense), totally flat and uninflected. Besides covering up any sign of emotion, Robards also conceived in some high-minded way that "rehearsing in movies should be done just before takes. Then those small spontaneous things can be retained." (154-55)
In this view, it's not awful acting; instead, it's terrible decision-making that is at the back of it. It doesn't make the acting any better, but it helps to explain how an actor who can play other roles quite well failed in this performance.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


    
Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest